The Yankees literally knocked the Angels' socks off.
In a game with a playoff like atmosphere, the Angels better hope that their performance wasn't indicative of how they will perform when the playoffs roll around for real.
As in playoffs past, the Angel offense could barely get anything going and whenever they did, they failed to capitalize for the big inning. The middle of the Angel order had multiple chances to bust the game open, but all they could muster was a solo homer from Vladimir Guerrero and a run driven in on a bases loaded GIDP by Kendry Morales. Ultimately, the team left five runners in scoring position. Not exactly the kind of thing that playoff-winning hitting is made of.
Even with that lousy hitting display, the Angels had a chance to pull of the comeback. Morales' GIDP with the bases juiced tied the game and had the Yanks teetering on the edge of losing just their second game after leading after the sixth this season. It looked like the Angels were once again ready to show the Yankees that they just have their number, but then Mike Napoli, who has been playing less and less due to his defensive struggles literally threw the game away by bouncing a throw into the outfield when trying to catch Brett Gardner stealing third base in the eighth inning. Gardner scored on the error and the Angels bizarre inability to execute defensively under pressure once again reemerged.
Of course Napoli never would have been put in that situation had Mike Scioscia not gone into brain lock as he has done on occasion in the playoffs and decided to let Jered Weaver stay in to pitch the eighth inning even though he was scheduled to face Mark Teixeira, who had already tagged him for two base hits, including a two-run triple. Under normal circumstances, Sosh likely would have turned to Darren Oliver or Kevin Jepsen for that inning, but unseen forces seem to disrupt Scioscia's normal decision making process during big games and tonight was no exception. For Angel fans everywhere who can't stomach another early post-season exit, this game was a sneak preview that is likely to induce nightmares.
Mike Napoli's errant throw gave Brett Gardner and the Yanks are free jog to the win.
- At least Vladimir Guerrero looks like he is ready to get it going again. His three-hit evening gave him three multi-hit games in his last six and it was his first homer of the month. Now if they can just get Morales and Rivera going again, the Angels should be just fine.
- Weaver's final line ends up not looking so good because of the eighth inning meltdown which was only partially his fault, but he still did fine work in his start against a very good team. He didn't have his best stuff tonight, but he still battled hard and managed to outsmart Yankee hitters on multiple occasions.
- Are the Angels the worst team with the bases loaded or what? We all know by now that they are the only team in the league without a grand slam, but they don't even seem like they can get a normal base hit with the bases full. Depending on the batter, they seem to either be too patient and end up getting stuck in pitcher's counts or too aggressive and swinging at an early pitcher's pitch. This happens every time without fail and it is positively maddening.
- Not that it is an excuse, but that was an awfully big, awfully inconsistent, awfully awful strike zone from Derryl Cousins tonight.
- As bad as Cousins' strike zone was, the Angels need to do a better job of adjusting to it. When Chone Figgins struck out looking on a bad call in the seventh with two runners on, he clearly didn't like the three strike calls Cousins made on him, and justifiably so, but the final strike was in the EXACT same spot as the previous strike two pitch. Figgy needs to be smarter than that and try and foul off that pitch instead of stubbornly trying to prove a point to the ump by taking it once again. There are no moral victories in sports.
It doesn't look like Nap will be getting out of Scioscia's defensive doghouse just yet thanks to his major gaffe tonight.